How to recognize atrial fibrillation and what to do

The Grim Reaper of our century: atrial fibrillation

If your heart experiences chaotic electrical signals, it’s high time to check your blood pressure.

Another heart rhythm problem that causes hundreds of thousands of deaths every year is atrial fibrillation. It is a rhythm disturbance with uncoordinated electrical activation, resulting in ineffective atrial contraction and an often fast and irregular heartbeat.(1) This is frequently perceived as palpitations or anginal chest pain. However, atrial fibrillation does not necessarily have any symptoms at all, which makes it hard to detect. There are many risk factors for atrial fibrillation, including ageing, genetics, ethnicity, male sex, valve disease of the heart, and many others, but arterial hypertension is the one most important risk factor.

Since atrial fibrillation occurs at irregular intervals and can therefore only be detected as it is happening, monitoring the heart rhythm with electrocardiogram-equipped blood pressure devices, portable ECG devices (holter monitors), event or specific mobile heart rhythm monitors can literally save lives.

Atrial fibrillation and high blood pressure are the main risk factors for developing strokes.(2) Therefore, both conditions should be identified before harming the patient.

(1) 2020 ESC Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of atrial fibrillation developed in collaboration with the European Association for Cardio-Thoracic Surgery (EACTS). Eur Heart J 2020; 42: 373-498
(2) Lip GY et al: refining clinical risk stratification for predicting stroke and thromboembolism in atrial fibrillation using a novel risk-based approach: the Euro Heart Survey on atrial fibrillation. Chest 2010; 137: 263-272

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